Blazers, Roy accept the challenge and down the Lakers

PORTLAND — Maybe a good old-fashioned argument was all it took.

One day removed from a fiery confrontation between Portland Trail Blazers guard Andre Miller and coach Nate McMillan that ended a practice in which the Blazers had been limited to 3-on-3 drills due to injuries, Portland lit up the Rose Garden and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.

Serenaded by “Beat L.A.” chants all evening, the Blazers downed the Lakers, 107-98, before a sold-out crowd of 20,629.

In doing so, Portland extended its home winning streak over Los Angeles to nine games. And a Blazers team that has faced and overcome challenges all season hurdled over another by knocking off the defending NBA Champion Lakers, who lead the league in winning percentage this season.

“It was a great win for us, in the sense that we played great basketball tonight,” McMillan said. “And to beat the Lakers, we needed this type of effort from start to finish.”

Brandon Roy scored a co-game high 32 points on 9-of-11 shooting, dished out six assists and grabbed five rebounds to lead the Blazers (23-15). Jerryd Bayless added 21 points, while Miller scored 17 and recorded seven assists.

McMillan said Roy, who is battling minor injuries and fatigue, faced a serious challenge in going up against the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers.

The Blazers’ star guard rose up and answered the call.

“Sometimes, your best defense against the best player in the world is to attack them,” Roy said. “So, I just wanted to be aggressive the times that he was on me and just try and wear him out as much as I can on that end.”

To Roy, Portland’s convincing victory — one that saw the Blazers jump ahead by as many as 20 points midway through the fourth quarter — captured the heart of a resilient team that has consistently overcome injuries and setbacks to remain in the early hunt for the Western Conference title.

“Really, that’s the only way we’re going to beat the Lakers, is if we come out with a lot of energy,” Roy said. “And I thought we did that tonight.”

Bryant topped the Lakers (28-8) with 32 points. However, he was just 14 of 37 from the field, and he often
struggled to deal with a Blazers defensive tandem of Roy and Martell Webster.

“I thought Martell played one of his best games as a pro,” McMillan said.

A stingy Portland defense held Los Angeles to 43.2 percent (41 of 95) shooting during the game. In addition, Portland dished out 22 assists while only committing eight turnovers.

“They played very well tonight,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “You have to give them credit for what they do.”

But the biggest number that signified the Blazers’ dominance was found in the free-throw column. Portland shot 82.1 percent from the line, taking 39 free throws and making 32. Roy was 13 of 14 from the line, and Bayless hit 10 of his 12 attempts.

McMillan has often said he considers 26 as an ideal amount of free throws. Friday, a Blazers team that pushed the agenda on the offensive end and refused to settle for long-range jump shots topped McMillan’s ideal by 13.

In contrast, a jump-shot heavy Lakers team took just 10 free throws, sinking five.

“The more aggressive you are and hitting teams first, teams tend to take a step back,” Miller said. “And I think by us being aggressive, we had them backpedaling a little bit.”

The Blazers grabbed a 14-6 lead after Webster knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing with 7 minutes left in the first quarter.

Smart, aggressive play by Bayless then propelled Portland in the second period. Bayless recorded eight points in the quarter and 16 during the first half. And he kept the Lakers’ defense off balance by consistently penetrating the lane and finishing at the rim.

Bayless was not the only Blazer with a true touch, though.

And when Roy connected with Miller for a fast-break layup, it was 53-41 Portland with 1:25 remaining in the second quarter.

The Lakers rallied by turning to the 3-ball.

Los Angeles hit four quick 3-pointers in the third period, and L.A. pulled as close as 74-71 with 2:28 left in third period.

But just as the Lakers found a groove, so did Roy. He poured in eight points during the third quarter, hitting 3 of 4 shots while finding a sweet spot between the free throw line and the top of the key.

A converted reverse finger-roll layup by Webster then made it 81-71 Blazers heading into the final period.

The rout was on.

And the “Beat L.A” singalong inside the Rose Garden had only just begun.

“It feels good,” Roy said. “It gives us confidence.”

The Blazers trail the first-place Denver Nuggets by half a game in the Northwest Division. … Roy reached the 30-point mark for the sixth time this season. … Webster has scored at least 14 points in five consecutive games. … The Blazers’ 39-10 free-throw margin marked Portland’s largest advantage since Jan. 5, 1988, when the Blazers outshot Seattle 50-21.

Best Blazer: Brandon Roy scored a co-game high 32 points on 9-of-11 shooting and hit 13 of his 14 free-throw attempts.
Big numbers: Portland took 39 free throws, making 32, while Los Angeles took just 10 attempts from the line.

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